Gary Gilbert’s Legal Career
Gary M. Gilbert is a founding partner of CGA Law Firm and has been practicing law for 59 years. Based on his education and personal experiences, Gary is skilled in dealing with business matters. Through his participation on numerous boards, he developed a keen understanding of how business owners think and how to meet their needs. Gary is particularly experienced in business sales and transfers and succession planning. He believes his success hinges on his ability to be a trusted advisor.
Many of Gary’s clients are family-owned and closely-held businesses. He works with them to ensure optimum terms for the transfer of business interests to the next generation, including consideration of family dynamics to minimize conflicts. Gary has considerable knowledge regarding ongoing business counseling and in the transfer of business interests. He is able to counsel his clients on matters pertaining to the purchase and sale of assets, business valuations, transfers of stock, buy-sell agreements and contractual matters. Gary is experienced in tailoring partnership and operating agreements within IRS guidelines to facilitate tax-advantaged transfers of business interests.
Gary is a past president of the York County Bar Association and former chairman of The Stewart Companies’ Board of Directors. He is also a founding member of the York Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation and the Byrnes Health Education Center. He also served on the Business Counsel Board for the Valparaiso University Business School. Currently, Gary serves on the Board of Directors of the Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN).
- Represented non-publicly held business interests for more than 30 years and successfully negotiating many mergers, acquisitions and generational transfers of business ownership
- Participated in numerous leveraged buyout transactions that made it possible to keep viable businesses in the York area, which helped to sustain local employment opportunities
- Assisted in the purchase, sale or ownership transfer of major local businesses, including clients in the following industries: automotive, heavy machinery, trucking, dairy and food products, steel fabrication, mining, construction, manufacturing, apparel, sporting equipment, real estate, insurance and healthcare
- Represented developers of residential, commercial and industrial projects, and real estate brokerage firms
Life Before CGA Law Firm
Gary was born in York, Pennsylvania. He started his education at Hartley Elementary School. His father was in the Marines during World War II, so to be closer to him, Gary and his mother moved to Arkansas for a year. Gary had a great first year of school because he was able to run around on the airbase and after school he was picked up in a jeep that took him to his front door. Everyone wore uniforms, had guns, and airplanes were flying overhead. This was the most memorable year of his childhood.
Unfortunately, when he moved back to York he learned that he had not attended enough school days for the York County school system to move him on to first grade. Fortunately, Gary‘s grandfather had a friend who was a member of Saint John’s Lutheran Church, which had a parochial school. The Saint Johns School tested and admitted Gary and he he remained a student there through eighth grade.
In ninth grade, Gary attended Mount Rose Junior High School where he played on the basketball team. His team was the Co-County Champions for the junior high school league. After that, he attended William Penn Senior High School, commonly known as York High. Gary was involved in various clubs during high school and in the student government. He was the school’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, which was set up like the federal government. Gary also spent a lot of time at the YMCA growing up — as a participant in after school activities when he was a child and later as a mentor and a camp counselor when he was a teenager.
Gary applied to several universities including Duke and Penn State University and was accepted to all of them. He also won one of four national scholarships to Valparaiso University in Indiana. The scholarship was a full ride to Valparaiso University and paid for tuition, books, and meal plan.
Gary arrived at Valparaiso with a suitcase and a knapsack, not knowing anyone. It did not take long for him to establish a large circle of friends that would be his friends for decades. At Valparaiso, Gary pledged a fraternity called Theta Chi. His pledge class was the largest one that the fraternity had ever had up to that point. The fraternity had a great group of guys, who worked hard to excel academically, compete in intermural sports, and take full advantage of campus life.
For the past 50 years, Gary and his Theta Chi brothers get together every few years for reunions and outings all over the country. This tight group of friends have prioritized their time together and remained close.
The father of one of Gary‘s childhood friends was a judge and Gary thought he had a pretty nice life, so he decided to go to law school. At the time Valparaiso had a program in which you could attend three years of college and go directly into law school. Graduating from university one year early was significant, because Gary would be paying tuition himself. Law school was great and the classes were very small. His first-year class had about 50 or 60 students. The school used the Socratic method, so there was nowhere to hide if you didn’t know your material.
When Gary was preparing for his law school exams, he received a draft notice. He joined the National Guard and later the Pennsylvania Officer Candidate School and was stationed in York, PA. In York and after law school, Gary started working for a well known lawyer and a man he greatly admired, Victor Dell’ Alba, doing domestic and criminal law.
As a young lawyer in York, Gary met and became good friends with Jon Countess through their wives, Karyl Lee and Rosemary, who were childhood friends. Gary and Jon went on many double dates and established a solid friendship. Jon joined a firm called Laucks and Monroe and when there was a need for more attorneys, Jon suggested the firm hire Gary and another young attorney named Pete Andrews.
Learn more about Attorneys Jon Countess and Pete Andrews
Founding and Growing CGA
Building the Law Firm
When Gary joined the firm in 1967, Laucks and Monroe was located on Market Street, but over the next few years, the firm grew and needed more space. Jon, Gary, and Pete were good friends with an architect named Terry Slonaker, who agreed to design a law firm building for them. He developed a modern design to accommodate all of their special requirements. It was the first building in York that was designed specifically to be a law firm. They hired Paul Smith to manage the construction of the new building on Duke Street and the project took almost one year to complete.
Countess, Gilbert, Andrews
Shortly after the building was finished in 1988, Sam Laucks left the firm to start a practice with his son, David, in Red Lion, PA. When Sam left, the three most senior attorneys took the opportunity to rebrand themselves. Advertising specialist, Mel Campbell, designed the logo, “Countess, Gilbert, Andrews” and the attorneys wrote the mission that still defines the firm today. CGA’s mission is “to provide exceptional legal service to individuals, businesses and local government and be a force for good in the community.” The attorneys loved the custom-designed building on Duke Street, the ample parking behind the building, and the proximity to the York County Court House and the Lafayette Club — which was right across the street!
Growing the Firm
The legal team continued to grow. When there were 17 attorneys, they could no longer remain comfortably in the Duke Street building. So in 2004, the attorneys purchased the Professional Center at 135 North George Street. The building was renovated and move-in day just happened to fall during a snowstorm in the winter of 2005.
Today CGA is a full service law firm with over 70 professionals that include 32 attorneys. Although CGA is based in York, the Firm serves clients throughout South Central Pennsylvania, often as a more convenient and cost effective alternative to “big city” firms. CGA attorneys have a collaborative approach to law, which means that when you hire a CGA attorney, you gain the expertise of all attorneys within the firm — a factor that sets CGA apart from its competitors.
|Gary’s most notable cases are not recognizable as cases since Gary is masterful at resolving issues early before they became cases. If Gary is involved in a case early enough, no matter how unpleasant it is, he is typically able to find a solution before the situation escalates to a disruptive legal battle. This ability to diffuse problem situations saves his clients time, money, and emotional energy, and is the reason that so many clients continue to seek his counsel.|
Gary credits his success to great clients who heed advice in the early stages so that a matter can be resolved without a lawsuit, trial, or major legal battle. His accomplishments in this area have provided immense value through the years to his clients and the firm.
Learn more about CGA Business Law
|In 2010, Gary visited his physician, Dr. Cyrus Beekey Jr., for his annual physical and mentioned that twice within the past month he had some difficulty swallowing. Many physicians would have disregarded that comment, but Dr. Beekey recognized that this might be important and requested a test. Two and a half weeks later, Gary was taking chemotherapy. Thanks to Dr. Beekey, they caught the esophageal cancer early and Gary is part of the 10 percent of people who survive.|
Gary and Karyl Lee
|Gary and Karyl Lee met Thanksgiving weekend 1963 in the Rathskeller of a local bar called Wimpy’s. He asked her to dance, even though he thought her brother was her date. When he spoke to her brother months later in the law library, he discovered their relationship and asked for Karyl Lee’s phone number. They started dating and two months later Gary began making payments on an engagement ring. Gary and Karyl Lee were married on January 2, 1965.|
After 56 years, Gary describes their union as “a great marriage.” He thinks Karyl Lee is a wonderful person who was a real helpmate to his legal career and an exceptional mother. Karyl Lee and Gary have always been close, but they grew even closer during his illness with Karyl Lee’s love, support and care during his recovery. After Gary’s recovery, he and Karyl Lee spent a lot of time together playing golf, socializing with friends and enjoying their time with their grandchildren, who know and love them as Mimi and Poppi.
Gary and Karyl Lee’s Children
|Of all of Gary’s accomplishments, he is the most proud of his four children and seventeen grandchildren. He says that he and Karyl Lee worked hard as parents, but were also lucky to raise children who are good people and great fun. He enjoys the fact that his children and their families are all very active in their communities.|
Gary and Karyl Lee’s children, spouses, and grandchildren were wonderful when he was battling esophageal cancer, an experience that drew everyone even closer together. Gary treasures the years that he has had to experience, help with, and enjoy the unfolding of his grandchildren’s lives.
Today, Gary’s grandchildren are very proud of his strength, focus, positivity and will to get better. They think of Poppi as their “peaceful warrior” and they continue to cheer him on each and every day.
From Those Who Know Gary Best:
|“As a transactional lawyer, Gil is one of the most business-savvy dealmakers and negotiators that I have ever encountered. But as impressive as those business, finance and legal traits are, they pale in comparison to the quality of the person — Gary being a true gentleman who exudes the highest level of ethics, goodwill and professional decorum. I am very fortunate to call him a trusted confidant, mentor and close friend.”|
|“As one of the founders of the firm, Gary always stressed putting the needs of the client first. It is a philosophy that I believe continues to this day.”|
|“Gary has exceptional people skills. He has always made friends quickly and easily, and he maintains those friendships for decades. He is especially skilled at diffusing volatile situations and reaching an agreement that is satisfactory to all parties involved. I continue to admire his ability to resolve issues early and ensure that the opposing parties feel understood and respected.|
Growing up, I felt very close to “Uncle Gary” and “Aunt Karyl Lee.” I played, attended school, and vacationed with their children. It was in my early twenties that I finally realized he was also “Uncle Gary” to dozens of my peers!”
|“While Gary has had an extremely successful legal career, I think the most notable aspect is how his clients have been clients (and mostly good friends) for a lifetime and how highly they respect him as a person and his opinions. Even when I or others in the firm do most of the work, the clients still want to know what Gary thinks, and Gary is always happy to take time out (yes, even from golf) to give them a call to impart his wisdom and experience or jump in, if necessary.|
I think another extremely important part of his practice is how he achieves a successful result for his clients, yet never does it by treating the other counsel or their client with anything other than great respect. This is a business practice that I have attempted to follow.”
Honoring the Legacy the Founders Created
|Gary, Jon, and Pete put much time and thought into the development of CGA. The founders created the mission for the firm, “to provide exceptional legal service and be a force for good in the community,” because they believed that that was the very best way to run a law firm. |
Gary takes joy in seeing that the attorneys and staff love their jobs and are proud of the work that they and the firm provide to clients and the community.
CGA recognizes our wonderful founder, colleague, and friend!